Nintendo crossovers are weird. Someone had the unhinged idea to combine everyone's favorite Italian plumber with insane, anthropomorphic rabbits with Mario + Rabbids. It was well-received, and the formula worked quite well. Another weird Nintendo crossover was Pokémon Conquest, a combination of the world's most popular entertainment franchise and Nobunaga's Ambition. That, too, received praise by critics. But, to me, the weirdest Nintendo crossover with a third-party franchise was Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Even as a rabid Fire Emblem fan, I didn't touch it. I didn't know how my beloved Fire Emblem with the demon battling of Shin Megami Tensei could turn into a game about Japanese pop idols. Yet, had it not been for this title's rerelease as Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore, I would have missed out on one of the most refreshing and fun RPGs in recent memory.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is a JRPG developed by Atlus, known for their work on the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona series. Originally released in 2015 for the Wii U near the end of the console's life, it didn't receive much attention back in the day. Now, with a port to the Nintendo Switch with some added features, Tokyo Mirage Sessions makes an excellent comeback.
The Style of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore
Style is the word that comes to mind when describing Tokyo Mirage Sessions. It oozes with the stuff. The art and the music come together to create an almost magical journey where players take the role of Itsuki Aoi, a teenager in Tokyo. The colorful cityscape of Shinjuku is beautiful to look at on the Switch. Non-essential NPCs wander around the city as solid colors, so rather than showing individual features of the crowds of Tokyo, you are met with a marvelous river of bright, cheerful colors.
Remember, Tokyo Mirage Sessions originally released in 2015. Considering that, the visuals hold up very well. Docked on the Nintendo Switch, there is some bearable aliasing present as you explore and fight. It doesn't detract from the stylish look at all, but if you go handheld (which I did for most of this 40-hour adventure), you get crisper lines and a clearer experience visually. The only truly dated aspect of Tokyo Mirage Sessions are some of the animations, which remain untouched. In fact, as far as I can tell, the port did not touch upon the visuals in any way. To see that it still mostly holds up is quite the accomplishment.
Where Tokyo Mirage Sessions truly shines is in its soundtrack. Music serves as this game's soul, shining through as a major presence in both story and gameplay. You play as a bunch of actors and talented up-and-coming J-pop idols, so of course, you'll hear tons of tunes. The voiced tracks are all bangers to listen to. I'm not the biggest fan of J-pop music by any means, but I do enjoy my occasional anime opening and ending song. I can't help but bop my head and tap my foot when I hear these tunes, from Kiria's "Reincarnation" to the trippy duet "Dream Catcher."
This edition of Tokyo Mirage Sessions also adds a new song entitled "She Is..." I can confidently say that the artists put their hearts and souls into this fantastically addicting duet. The visuals during the song seem a bit more modern thanks to its Switch originsyou're, so it's a nice treat to listen to and see. Encore adds little in new content (for example, there's one extra side area and that's about it), but "She Is..." stands out as a hit.
The Story Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore
Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a tough nut to crack if you're trying to figure out where Fire Emblem comes into the equation; the same can be said about Shin Megami Tensei. Nevertheless, whether you're a fan of Intelligent Systems' Fire Emblem games or Atlus-developed titles like Shin Megami Tensei and Persona, you'll find something to like in its story in addition to the gameplay.
The premise is that you play as Itsuki Aoi, a normal Japanese teenager in this third year of school. Normal until he and his best friend Tsubasa Oribe find themselves transported into an otherworldly portal filled with strange spirits. The two inexplicably bond with "Mirages," which turn into weapons that grant Itsuki and the gang magic combat powers. These Mirages are mindwiped Fire Emblem characters on a quest to regain lost memories.
Itsuki and Tsubasa get jobs at Fortuna Entertainment, a company that employs actors and idols. These individuals are also Mirage Masters who fight invasions of hostile mirages to keep Tokyo safe. Why them? Mirages are attracted to Performa, which is an energy-like manifestation of a person's talent. Those with powerful Performa can become Mirage Masters. Fortuna Entertainment is a front, essentially. During the day, you have J-pop icons and actors doing their work, singing the songs and the like. During the night, they're saving Tokyo.
This long-winded explanation serves as a reminder that Tokyo Mirage Sessions' pretext is rather campy and over-the-top. Despite that, it works and I love it. There's an interesting premise here, and it makes you wonder how Atlus came up with the idea. The story itself is about as cheerful as the soundtrack - this is very much a "feel good" experience. It takes a significant amount of time before the plot starts to unfurl and get more interesting (especially for Fire Emblem fans), so it feels like it might drag in some aspects. Nevertheless, each chapter is easy to follow and leaves you with a satisfying feeling upon completion.
As for the characters themselves, they aren't particularly unique or special, but I grew to love them in the end. Each character has a few quirks that give them bits of personality here and there, but Tokyo Mirage Sessions isn't a game with much character progression. Kiria Kurono is your seasoned J-pop idol who is a bit dark and serious but also loves cute things like stuffed animals. Eleanora Yumizuru is a tomboyish Hollywood-obsessed actor. Yashiro Tsurugi is.. edgy? That's it. Again, though, I grew to love them for their quirks, even if they could use some more fleshing out.
The Gameplay of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore
This is a turn-based RPG with a decently sized cast of party members. Each cast member comes with their own Fire Emblem Mirage character, granting individualized abilities. The core gameplay loop involves going through lengthy sequences of dialogue before eventually delving into a portal and are navigating through a maze-like environment. Each maze has a theme and puzzles, as well as enemy spawns that rush at you.
Combat is where Tokyo Mirage Sessions becomes addicting. Atlus has a satisfying and simple system that drives the game forward. In many RPGs, I feel bogged down by constant enemy encounters because, frankly, sometimes combat gets boring. That's not the case here. Combat begins quite simply as your party members are given only a few abilities. As time goes on, however, it fleshes out and becomes a boisterous affair.
Let's start with the basics: each enemy has weaknesses. This is where much of Fire Emblem and Atlus RPGs come into play. There are enemies with swords, axes, lances, and other Fire Emblem weapons. The SRPG's weapon triangle is featured here, where swords beat axes, axes beat lances, and so on. Enemies are also weak to certain types of magic, like thunder, ice, and fire. As your roster grows and your team levels up, you'll gain enough abilities to counter every enemy.
Exploiting these weaknesses is the main path to success. This is where "Session" skills make an appearance. When players attack an enemy and exploit its weakness, another party member will jump in for an additional attack. In the simplest terms, the main goal of the gameplay is to chain together as many of these attacks as you can to maximize damage. As time goes on and you complete more of Tokyo Mirage Session's quests, you'll gain even more abilities allowing you to extend these combos even further.
There are hundreds of different skills. There's passives, session-specific skills, duel arts (two-party members combine their powers for one strong attack), and much more. You can create dozens of new Havocs for each character, which are weapons with obtainable skills as you use them more. The possibilities almost seem overwhelming and nearly endless. It might sound like it's too much, but Atlas does an incredible job of making it easy to understand and accessible for all players.
The cherry on top is the fulfilling boss battles. These take the form of Fire Emblem antagonists such as Gangrel and Aversa. The fights are interesting and varied, with each one having unique quirks to keep you on your toes. Exploiting boss weaknesses and understanding the effects of their attacks is key to your success, and soon after beating them, you'll feel like a champion.
Normal difficulty in Tokyo Mirage Sessions isn't much of a challenge. I can count on my fingers the number of times I faced defeat in my dozens of hours of gameplay. Leveling comes easy thanks to included DLC from the original title. You can go into a portal with enemies that drop tomes, which give you a big burst of experience upon use. If I had difficulty with a chapter, I could grab a bunch of tomes in a few minutes and be on my way. It's cheap, but it's also hard to resist. Lastly, the UI in combat is a bit overwhelming and messy. There's a bit too much going on, and as a result, it feels cluttered.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore Review | Final Thoughts
One last significant difference from the original Tokyo Mirage Sessions is that this new version includes EX Stories. These are three short, additional chapters that have a bit of dialogue but nothing very substantial. The mazes are pretty new environments and you can get some extra costumes for your characters - like a Persona 5 Joker outfit for Itsuki - but otherwise, that's it. It's fine for new players of the game like me, but those who have already played Tokyo Mirage Sessions before are going to have a hard time justifying their purchase. Also like the Wii U version, there is no English dub. I'm OK with subtitles, but in combat, party members talk almost constantly. The thing is, none of that chatter has subtitles, so I can't tell what they are saying.
Nonetheless, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is a triumphant RPG full of joy. It scratches the JRPG itch, particularly for those who are looking for addictive combat, a fantastic soundtrack, or just something cheerful and bright. Who knows, you might even find yourself singing butchered versions of the amazing soundtrack in your head long after you've finished the adventure.
TechRaptor reviewed Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore on the Nintendo Switch using a copy purchased by the reviewer.
- Excellent J-pop Soundtrack
- Stylish Visuals
- Addicting Session-based Combat
- Extensive Customization of Combat Abilities
- Cluttered UI
- One-dimensional Characters
- Still No English Dub